Medical billing errors cost patients thousands of dollars in lost time and fees resulting from bad credit scores. Many times, medical billing personnel and debt collection companies have all the power when issues arise. Unpaid medical bills, including billing errors from the provider, are quickly reported to credit agencies damaging credit scores. Lower credit scores result in higher fees and interest rates on home and auto loans. While all states have a system set up for easily reporting unpaid bills to credit agencies, none have a system set up to challenge billing errors through a third-party, other than the court system. Even a victory in court does not guarantee that the credit reporting on an unpaid bill is automatically removed.
Those who want to improve their credit score because of necessity of getting a low-interest loan or just on principal, must dig in their heels. Diligence is sometimes the only way to remove the illegitimate debt reported to the credit agencies.
Take Down Names
When you talk to medical billing offices, insurance companies, or collection agencies document names and dates with a summary of what was discussed. If you have the ability, record the phone call. Most collection agencies and insurance companies record calls for their benefit. Consider doing the same. Check with the law in your state, however, before recording the phone call. Many states require notice to the other party that the phone call is being recorded. This is the reason you may hear “This phone call may be recorded for quality or training purposes” during a call to one of these businesses. During your call make sure to ask for copies of documentation, either by mail or email. Never ignore late bills or collection agency attempts. Many collection agencies will quickly file a lawsuit if there is no response.
Remember, be polite during your phone call. It is likely the person on the other end of the phone has no personal issues with you. They are just doing their job. Acting polite and professional can go a long way to getting more information out of the conversation to help your case.
File a dispute against the reported items
Removing an item from a credit report is difficult, but possible. Many times the medical billing office or collection agency will agree to mark the bill paid, but they do not always completely remove the record. Continue to pursue a complete remove of the item from the credit report. It is likely you will need to file a formal dispute with the reporting credit agency. The Fair Credit Reporting Act does allow people who have had items wrongfully placed on their credit report to file a dispute. Here are the basic steps of filing a credit reporting dispute for a medical item.
There are three credit reporting agencies including Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You are entitled to a free credit report from each agency every 12 months. Call 1-877-322-8228 to ask for the free credit reports. The credit reports list all the medical payments due. If there are late payments or outstanding medical bills these items lower your credit score. Take not of the company reporting the late or due payment on the credit report.
Send an official letter to the credit reporting agency(s) listing the medical billing error to start the dispute. Summarize the documentation you previously gathered in the letter stating the facts of the billing error. Include a copy of the credit report with the disputed item circled. Also include copies of any supporting documentation, including documents gathered earlier, credit card statements or copies of canceled checks. Send this information to each credit reporting agency listing the error by certified mail.
File a Complaint with the Medical Provider
Remember, every has a boss. Medical offices, particularly small offices, thrive on care of their patients. If their billing is causing an issue with one of their patients, they may be interested. Leave them a polite voice mail or send a letter stating the billing issue. Include a peaceful solution and give a few weeks for a response.
File a Complaint with the Better Business Bureau
Unfortunately, most state consumer protection agencies will not get involved with billing disputes for medical claims. Likewise, most state insurance protection agencies will not get involved with billing errors. Filing a complaint with the BBB will have the most impact on the actual medical provider. In some cases, it may not be fair to file against the provider. Keep in mind that the medical provider has a responsibility to control the accuracy of their billing. If they just pass the buck and the company they hire makes a mistake, it should still reflect poorly on their business. Remember they hired or offered money to the collection agencies. If you get a response through this process, make sure the error in billing is completely removed from all the credit reporting agencies records.